Financial Tips For Single Parents


Smart money management is always important, but it can take on more urgency for those who are without a partner. Whether you’re divorced, widowed, or single by choice, single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges.

Marilyn Timbers, a Connecticut-based financial advisor, says of having to raise a child on one income: “Children are a joy, but they do not come cheap.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes in a report that it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18, and some single parents have to shoulder that responsibility alone. Even if child support is adequate – unfortunately nearly 50% of that support is never paid – you’ll do yourself a favor if you think ahead about financial matters as a single mom or dad.

Estate planning is your first priority, according to Lisa Hay of Ascend Financial. It’s essential to make arrangements for your children should you become incapacitated, and this means spending time on two documents that no one enjoys thinking about: a will, which specifies a guardian for your children and how you’ll pass assets down to them; and a “power of attorney,” which gives someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.

You may also want to set up a trust. A trust is a legal structure in which your assets can be held for the children. It is overseen by a trustee. And check with your employer to see if it offers a disability benefit. Generally, you will get a reduced income amount when you claim disability – anywhere from 50% to 70% of your salary. “Your income is your most important asset,” says Tom Morrill, owner of Morrill Insurance Group. Insuring it can be especially crucial for single parents who don’t have a second income to cover a gap.

Hay also says be sure to have life insurance. What you purchase will depend on your finances, but a term policy is most economical because it’s a straightforward death benefit. A healthy 33-year-old woman, for example, would pay roughly $240 a year for a 20-year term, $500,000 life insurance policy. This would get your child through college should something happen to you.

Health insurance is “the number one insurance need for a single parent,” according to Morrill, who considers life insurance a close second. People often complain about the cost, but if you’re uninsured, a serious medical procedure or hospital stay can be disastrous to your finances. And, of course, losing a job or becoming ill is still more catastrophic as a single parent than as part of a two-income couple. A recent Harvard study revealed that 62 percent of bankruptcies were caused by medical debt. You can comparison-shop for policies at your state’s marketplace or at HealthCare.gov.

Along with the rest of your boring-but-necessary financial thinking, don’t forget about tax breaks. If you’re a single parent, you should probably file as head of household (not as single) because you’ll often pay less and get to claim a higher standard deduction. You can also claim exemptions for yourself and each qualifying child. You also might qualify for the earned income tax credit, the child and dependent care credit (if you pay someone to care for your kids), and the child tax credit.

As far as day-to-day household operations, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Credit cards – In The Financial Guide for Single Parents Workbook, Larry Burkett warns single parents that, while credit cards may seem like an easy way to fill in the gaps of a decreased income, it’s wise to avoid using them as much as possible.
  • Shopping in general – Many single parents have to make lifestyle adjustments after a divorce or the death of a spouse. You may need to consider moving or changing your spending habits. Burkett notes that lots of people like to go shopping to cheer themselves up, but the added debt you’ll incur will only make you feel worse. This even applies to groceries, which are an expensive part of the budget. Plan that trip carefully, too, so you can better avoid impulse buying.
  • Holidays – Guilt causes many single parents to overindulge their children, even if they can’t afford it. This is especially true during holidays and birthdays. Be sure to set designated amounts for gifts, and stay within the budget.
  • Ask for help – Check with your credit union for financial advice. And there are many nonprofit organizations with programs specifically designed for single parents.

Whatever your income, it’s important to give yourself a safety net, because emergencies happen. Put aside a little bit of money from each paycheck to set up an emergency fund for car repairs, broken refrigerators and other realities of life. As a general rule, experts recommend having six months’ worth of non-discretionary expenses in an account that is separate from the one you use for daily expenses. That could be a savings account or possibly a low-risk investment account.

Bucket budgeting can help, says Jan Cullinane, author of AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement. That means creating four different accounts: one for fixed monthly expenses such as food and bills, another for long-term expenses like retirement or replacing appliances, a third for emergencies and a fourth for discretionary spending.

“Put the appropriate amount of money into the first three, and whatever is left is your discretionary or ‘fun’ spending,” says Cullinane. “If there is nothing left for that month in the ‘fun’ bucket, you simply go without – you don’t dip into the other buckets. Harsh, but necessary.”

And it’s more doable than you’d think. One study asked people if they could save 20 percent of their income. Most respondents said no. But, when asked if they could live on 80 percent of their income, most said yes. “Be aware of how you frame questions to yourself,” Cullinane says. “You might be surprised.”

Your Turn: Have you faced tough questions and financial circumstances as a single parent? What were the most useful solutions you found?

SOURCES:

http://www.familyminute.com/articles/parenting/single-parenting/financial-pitfalls-for-the-single-parent/#.WTnLa2jyvIU

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/10/17/the-best-budgeting-strategies-for-single-parents

http://www.cheatsheet.com/personal-finance/5-personal-finance-tips-for-single-parents.html/?a=viewall

https://www.betterment.com/resources/life/family/7-financial-planning-tips-single-parents/

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/top-financial-planning-tips-single-parents/story?id=20906018#

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Your Financial Reality VS Your Financial Priorities

 

Do you ever get the feeling that your financial priorities might be out of whack? Start putting together all your receipts, account statements, credit card bills and other piles of paper that comprise your recent financial history, and try this three-step process to find out.

1. Establish your priorities

Going through the daily motions of life, you may never have time to think about the reasons for which you’re earning money. Very few people are getting up and punching the clock every morning with the hope of building a Scrooge McDuck-style money room. Most of us are trying to put food on the table, keep the lights on and provide for our loved ones. Those things are our priorities.

Write down on a sheet of paper the top five things you want to achieve with your money. Number one will likely be paying bills, but there’s quite a bit of flexibility in the rest of the list. Are you saving for a down payment for a house? Maybe you want to take a dream vacation or start a small business. Perhaps financing your children’s higher education is a priority for your family. You might have charities you like to support, or dreams of retiring early.

Spend some quality time thinking about where you want to spend your money. If keeping to five options feels too limiting, feel free to go beyond that. Just keep the list in order of what you want to do. There aren’t right and wrong answers here. If your priority is owning the world’s largest Barney the Friendly Dinosaur costume collection, that’s fine. What matters is that your list reflects your values and commitments.

2. Identify your realities

This is where that mountain of paper in front of you comes in handy. Take stock of your spending in any given month. For each of your financial priorities, how much of your paycheck goes to each?

Make a list of your top 10 categories of spending. Try to account for as much of your paycheck as you can. Put your biggest expenses at the top, and then list all the way down to the smallest. Feel free to make categories as you go and reshuffle them as patterns become more apparent. Don’t stress too much about where to categorize things. Just go with your gut.

Now, compare the list of expenditures to the list of priorities. Is your money going where your mouth is? Are you spending to bring yourself closer to your priorities, or do they just exist on that sheet of paper you had in step one?

3. Make a plan to fix it

Don’t get discouraged if you find you’re nowhere near your priorities. Remember the statistic in the beginning. Half of Americans usually spend their tax refund on a big-ticket purchase or a vacation, and most of them also say they want to save for retirement and get out of debt. You’re not alone in living far away from your financial ideals.

It might not be a bad idea to revisit your priorities briefly. Perhaps you were too strict when you set your priorities. It might be that you prioritize day-to-day comfort. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but look where it ranks on your list of priorities. Is the joy you get from your daily indulgences worth the trade-offs it brings? In short, given the plans you have, do you regret any purchases? Those are the ones you want to cut from your budget and lifestyle.

You don’t need to switch overnight from your current financial attitude to one that’s totally in line with what you want your money to do. Making too strict of a plan will make you unhappy, frustrated and more likely to bend back the other way. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Pick one action you can take tomorrow to bring yourself closer to achieving your priorities. Cancel a monthly music subscription and put the $10 into a savings account. Cook in one more time next week and put the difference toward your credit card bill. Once these changes start to feel effortless, look for more ways you can tweak your spending habits to make your priorities and realities line up a bit better.

If you need help reaching your savings goals, UCCU can help. There are many ways you can automate your savings and assist in keeping you on the right track. Call (800) 453-8188 or stop by a UCCU branch today!

Sources:

http://moneyning.com/money-management/what-are-your-biggest-financial-priorities/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/03/16/is-your-money-going-where-it-needs-to-how-to-get-your-financial-priorities-straight/4/#f0d85fd1ba22

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/how-americans-will-spend-their-tax-refund-2.aspx

http://money.cnn.com/pf/storysupplement/tax_refunds/

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How Low Can You Go? Give Your Child The Grocery Challenge

Do you ever feel like all your money goes toward groceries? Out of all the non-fixed expenses a household can have, food costs take the biggest bite out of the average monthly budget. Understandably, trying to trim the family’s grocery bill is an ongoing battle for most of us. Give your kids a leg up on this lifelong skill by challenging them with this fun and educational activity.

Materials needed:
  • Coupon circulars and/or newspapers
  • Writing materials
  • Calculator
  • Piggy bank
Instructions:
  1. Give your child a reasonable budget to be used for a week’s worth of groceries for your family.
  2. Instruct your child to create a shopping list. Let them know they will be tasked with going “shopping” for every item on the list while spending as little as possible. All extra money should go into the piggy bank.
  3. Tell them to be sure to include all meals, drinks, snacks, ingredients, pantry staples, pet food etc. on their grocery list.
  4. Making no mention of the coupons, have your child complete the task with all the materials provided. After creating the list, let them “shop” for everything by adding the costs of each item and giving you a “receipt” for the total sum. If your young shopper is unsure of an object’s price, they can ask you for help.
  5. Stress that the challenge in this activity is to see how far the budget for a week’s groceries can go.
  6. Introduce the coupons, but explain why buying something you have no need for just because there’s a coupon isn’t smart. Let your child decide which coupons are worth using.
  7. Watch your child use their budgeting skills and smarts to “shop” for the family and try to save as much as possible.

When the task is complete, review the results with your child. How much money went into the piggy bank? Were items written on the grocery list because of available coupons, or were the coupons only flipped through after the list was already made? Did your child first create a menu for the week before writing the list? Did they omit anything important? What did they learn from this activity?

Variations:
  • You can do this in real life, having your child create a shopping list and then taking them to the store. Have them actually select the groceries and make the purchase of all the week’s groceries, trying to spend as little as possible.
  • For younger children, you can create a “store,” using fake money, a toy cash register and a play shopping cart. Place a few items on a table, making sure there are clear prices on each item. Have your child “go shopping” with the money that’s available, making sure they are aware that they must have enough money to pay for every object they put in their cart.
Your Turn:How do you teach your kids about saving money on groceries? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
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Holiday Hacks For Traveling College Students



With the holiday season fast approaching, college students across the country are thinking about their trips home. Whether you choose to go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas -or both – if that trip means hopping on a plane, you’re looking at some big expenses.

Can a cash-strapped college student pay for airline flights during the most expensive traveling seasons of the year without going broke?

They sure can! Here’s how:

1.) Start saving now

If you’ve got a part-time job, start skimming a bit off each paycheck for holiday travel costs. You can also skip one pricey indulgence each week from now until the holidays. This small sacrifice will help you save up that extra cash for when it’s time to travel. Every little bit adds up!

2.) Use student discounts

Some airlines understand that you’re a broke college student wanting to spend time with family over the holidays. That’s why some, like American Airlines, offer discounts for students of specific colleges. You can also look for other student discounts on sites like studentuniverse.com and STAtravel.com.

3.) Be flexible

Don’t get fixed on flying out of a specific airport, at a certain time or on your chosen day of the week. You can shave dozens of dollars off your ticket prices by being flexible. Put things into perspective: What’s an extra fifteen-minute drive when it can save you $75? And, of course, you can always catch up on sleep you lose during a red-eye flight when you get home.

4.) Pack light

Airlines are tightening expenses all around, and these cuts are trickling down to customers in a big way. One area that’s come under attack is luggage. Many airlines are charging for each checked-in piece, while others will ask you to pay just to bring a carry-on on board.

Find out what your airline’s policy is before you start packing. If you’re going to need to pay for whatever you stow under the plane or bring aboard with you, pack as lightly as possible. Remember that you’re going home, not headed for the wilderness. Also, most airlines allow you to bring a backpack as your personal bag for the flight, free of charge. You can fit all of your essentials and travel necessities in there, but be careful of liquid restrictions!

5.) Don’t buy anything at the airport

Airport shops, like kiosks at malls, are outrageously overpriced. Window-shop if you’d like to pass the time, but bury your wallet deep in your backpack. It’s also smart to bring empty water bottles and fill them up at the airport so you’re not stuck paying $4.99 for a 16-oz bottle of Poland Spring.

6.) Find a seasonal job at home

If you still find yourself panicking over the money you’ll shell out for holiday travel, see if you can find a part-time job in your hometown. Many retailers are looking for help during this busy season, and if your break puts you in town for a few weeks, you may be able to land a position. The money you earn can help offset your travel costs.

Your Turn: How do you save money on your holiday trips home? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fatwallet.com/blog/a-college-students-guide-to-saving-money-for-holiday-travel/amp

https://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/the-10-things-you-should-do-over-holiday-break

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Gift Card Holiday Shopping Guide

With Thanksgiving coming up, holiday shopping is on the minds of many. You might have gotten off to a solid start but have a few people left on your list that have you stumped when it comes to deciding what to get them.

One of the simplest ways to check them off as complete is to pick up a few gift cards. Clearly, they have become a go-to gift given that Americans spent nearly $46 billion on gift cards last year. So it should come as no surprise that you’ll hear a lot more about gift cards as November rolls on.

This is particularly true of your Facebook friends and family, who are probably choosing sides with one camp believing gift cards to be far superior to traditional gifts and the others finding them incredibly impersonal. This guide will go over the case for and against gift cards and give you some tips on how to save money when shopping for them.

The case for gift cards: Gift cards are more personal than cash because they show some thought about the recipient.

Gift cards are also more secure than cash, particularly when being shipped in the mail system. They also have a favorable impact on your gift budget as opposed to bulkier gifts because shipping costs are much lower.

Gift cards also solve a persistent economic problem that makes an appearance in long-form think pieces within articles in the Atlantic or Slate every holiday season. Those pieces are usually accompanied by a few days of Facebook shares and retweets on the topic: deadweight. This theory states that a gift giver can’t give an economically efficient gift because, if the item on which you spend $100 is worth $100 to the recipient, they would have bought it for themselves. How many times have you received a sweater that doesn’t fit or a new gadget you don’t want? Or how often have you received a gift that is close to what you wanted, but not quite right? It happens.

In fact, an entire market exists for B-movies that are designed to look like the year’s most popular films, mainly to fool the unwary shopper at holiday time. Gift cards solve this problem by letting the recipient choose his or her own gift.

The case against gift cards: Gift cards are impersonal compared to actual gifts.

Nothing shows your thoughtfulness like the perfect gift. If you want to make someone happy, the feeling of opening the big box will always beat out opening an envelope. Finally, it’s really easy to create an awkward situation of imbalance. When you receive a gift card for $100, but you gave that person one for $50, you end up feeling guilty. When the opposite occurs, it’s like you bought them a $50 gift and they got you nothing. Putting a firm price on gifts makes any discrepancy very apparent.

As for deadweight, gift cards minimize the problem, but don’t eliminate it. They still have some value less than cash (whether perceived or real), so you’re not fully realizing the economic potential of your gift. In fact, the only way to fully beat deadweight is by giving a gift. You can get them something they don’t know about, taking advantage of imperfect market knowledge. You can make them something, taking advantage of the value of your time. Or, you can buy them something they wouldn’t buy for themselves, taking advantage of some people’s unwillingness to indulge. By the way, this paragraph is exactly why no one likes economists and why no one ever reads the articles on deadweight: too much rationality and not enough jolliness.

How to buy a gift card: Buying gift cards is easy, of course. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. In fact, you shouldn’t pay full price for a gift card if you can avoid it. Use gift card websites like giftcardgranny.com or giftcardzen.com to purchase gift cards at big discounts, sometimes as much as 50% off. The sites offer protection from scams, and if you end up with a gift card for an odd amount, you can always use that gift card to buy a gift card from the retailer. So, if you want to give a gift card to The Gap for $100, for example, you might find one that’s actually for $112, purchase it for under $100, and save the extra value for yourself. You can often get larger gift cards at even steeper discounts, then turn them into multiple smaller gift cards.

Other ways to save money include looking for promotions. Many chain restaurants offer gift card bonuses. For example, suppose you buy $100 worth of gift cards to a Chili’s. You might be able to get a free $25 card for yourself. It’s never a bad idea to get a free dinner, and during the busy holiday season, it’s even better.

Hopefully, this guide will make your holiday shopping smooth and easy. This season shouldn’t be about stress and pressure. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a break and drink some eggnog. If you can’t find a good store gift card to get someone, you could always come in and get a VISA gift card from UCCU. Just ask any representative to see the options!

Sources:
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The Dos and Don’ts of Credit Repair

If you’ve recently been rejected from a credit application of any kind, you may be looking at a poor credit score for any number of reasons. You might have been late with your credit card payments, have an outstanding judgment against you or have even been frauded or victimized by identity theft.

Whatever the cause of the fall in your score, you’re probably looking for ways to get it back on track. Tread carefully! There are lots of dishonest opportunists looking to make a quick buck off your pressing need. Don’t become the next victim of a credit repair scam. In fact, there’s nothing a credit repair company can do for you that you can’t do yourself.

This probably has you wondering how to untangle the legitimate steps you should be taking now from the pointless and costly actions. Look no further! Our handy guide of credit repair dos and don’ts will help get you on the road to improving your credit score.

Do: Determine your actual credit score

If a recent credit application of yours has been denied, don’t take it at face value – find out why it happened. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are each required to provide you with a complimentary copy of your credit report once a year, upon request. To order yours, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228.

If you’ve already requested a report from each of the agencies in the last 12 months, you can still get one free of charge; you are entitled to a free report whenever a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment. To qualify, just request a report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

Do: Review your report and dispute any errors

Once you receive your report, review it for inaccuracies. If you spot any fraudulent purchases or erroneous information, you’ll need to dispute them in writing. In your letter, identify every item you are disputing and the reasoning behind your claim. Include copies of documents that support your stance and ask that the errors be removed or corrected. It’s best to send your letter by certified mail so you can ensure the credit reporting company actually received it if that is necessary. Also, keep a personal copy of your letter and all supporting documents for your own records.

You’ll also need to dispute the charge with your actual creditor, taking the same steps you did above.

Don’t: Expect any quick fixes

Anxious as you may be to improve your score, know that there is no “quick fix” for creditworthiness. Enhancing your score takes time, lots of hard work and creating and sticking to a realistic debt repayment plan.

If your credit score is poor, you may be bombarded with promotional material from credit repair companies that promise to increase your score by 100 points in less than a month. If you think these claims sound too good to be true, you’re absolutely right. There are some legitimate credit repair companies out there, but as mentioned, there’s nothing they can do for you that you can’t do on your own – and without paying their hefty fee.

Do: Take steps toward fixing your credit

If you’ve determined that your credit report is accurate, you’ll want to take a careful look at the habits that may be leading to your unfavorable score.

Are you timely with your credit card payments? If you’re consistently late, consider setting up an automatic bill-pay system so you never forget to make a payment. Are you making headway on your debt? If you’re paying your bills on time but your debt is not going anywhere, it’s time to rethink your spending habits. Don’t shop with credit cards; use only debit or cash. Look for ways to trim your expenses, like couponing wherever possible, planning dinner menus around sale items, and finding cost-free ways to relax instead of blowing money at a restaurant or on retail therapy.

Are your monthly bills unmanageable? If you can’t make it through the month and still meet all of your minimum payments, your debt may need an overhaul. Consider debt consolidation, in which your debt is transferred to one low-interest account, or a balance transfer to a card that has an interest-free period. Be aware, though, that lots of open credit is not considered favorable by creditors; close as many accounts as you open – but leave your oldest one open as it shows a longer period of credibility.

Also, no card is interest-free forever. When the introductory period ends, you may be hit with higher than usual interest rates. Alternatively, you can contact your creditors and work out a more reasonable payment plan.

If these options don’t sound feasible, try finding ways to increase your income instead, using all extra cash exclusively for paying down your debt.

Don’t: Expect to see any changes immediately

Don’t fret if you’ve made strides toward fixing your credit and haven’t yet seen an increase in your score. Creditors will only report to the credit reporting agencies on a periodic basis, usually once a month. It may take upward of 30 days or more for your account to be updated and your score to improve.

Do: Ask us for help

Here at UCCU, we’re all about helping you manage your finances. If you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! Stop by today to ask about our credit counseling services and assistance with creating and sticking to a budget. We even offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable.

Your Turn: Have you drastically improved your credit score? What was your secret weapon? Share your success and best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
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Love And Money: Scripts For Talking About Money With Those We Love

Money plays a vital role in relationships. In fact, how you and your partner relate to money can make or break the relationship. It may not sound romantic, but a 2009 study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that couples who disagree about money approximately once a month are 30-40% more likely to divorce than couples who do not. Those who disagree about finances more regularly significantly increase their risk of divorce.

Not surprisingly, money is one of the most sensitive topics couples face. When “my money” becomes “our money,” a certain level of independence is relinquished by both parties even though the desire to maintain some control is still natural and understandable. Try honest discussion wherever possible and be more understanding of your mate’s idiosyncrasies when it comes to money. With a more open atmosphere, he will hopefully reciprocate and be more understanding of yours.

Communication is key to making sure you’re both on the same page regarding your finances. After all, money is a major part of life. Even if you don’t agree on how money should be spent or saved, identifying your financial values and personalities is one big step in the right direction.

In her book, “Couples and Money: Cracking the Code to Ending the #1 Conflict in Marriage,” relationship expert Jackie Black, Ph.D., states that our beliefs about money are deeply rooted in our past, making conversations about it difficult. How you relate to money reveals your beliefs and values; trust and respect often play a part in money matters as well. Here are some ideas for keeping the lines of communication open with the love of your life.

Before the conversation

Before starting a conversation, see to it that the setting is neutral and friendly. You should both be feeling pretty good, meaning not tired or stressed. It’s a good idea to take a walk at the lake, go for a stroll in the park or have lunch at a restaurant.

If you can, establish a time limit. After 15 minutes, do something fun and completely unrelated. Set that expectation up front and you’ll find that you can really accomplish a lot in a short amount of time without anyone becoming upset.

In most cases, the other person will secretly (or perhaps openly) be glad you brought it up. Once the air is clear, mutually beneficial solutions can usually be found.

How to start the conversation

If you have a financial concern that you’d like to discuss with your partner, start by thinking about what the issue is really about. Are you upset that your partner goes out to lunch each work day, or are you more concerned that your partner hasn’t taken the initiative to cut back on expenses? It’s not about the lunch; it’s about the money.

Use “I” statements. For example, “I feel hurt when our credit union statement comes and I see large expenses I didn’t know about.” Begin the conversation with your concerns, being careful not to place blame on your other half. “I’m concerned that we’re not sticking to the budget like we should,” or “I think we should sit down and take a look at where we can cut out unnecessary expenses,” doesn’t place the focus on one particular expenditure or person. It leaves the door open for discussion in multiple directions. And it doesn’t place blame on anyone, which is key to having a productive and loving conversation.

If the conversation becomes an argument, call a time-out. Say something like, “This is a really important discussion and I’m glad we’re having it. It’s not easy to talk about this. Let’s take a break to think things through and continue talking when we’re both feeling better.”

Joint or separate accounts

Whether to have joint or individual accounts is a personal decision that encompasses factors that are as unique as your relationship. If you and your partner cannot agree about how money should be spent or saved, utilizing one joint account for regular household expenses and individual accounts for your own “fun” money might be a good option. But that doesn’t mean you stop communicating about finances. In fact, it may be more important than ever to discuss how much you’re each spending, earning and investing, and if you’re married, it’s never a good idea to borrow without first having a conversation about it.

It’s a good idea to keep an agreed-upon amount of cash of your own in an individual account. Each of you should have money to spend on small indulgences with no questions asked. Agree in advance on what types of expenses are personal. For example, is a magazine subscription personal or part of your overall spending plan? Deciding in advance will leave little room for argument later.

Never criticize each other in public about money. Keep financial discussions private.

Open-ended conversation starters

It’s difficult to begin a conversation about money. It’s stressful and can cause anxiety about how your partner may react. Here are some tips and conversation starters that will get you on the right track.

  • If you’re in a serious relationship and considering marriage or a permanent partnership, discuss finances before you take the plunge. Start with:
    • “I’ve heard that arguments about money are the leading cause of divorce. I think it’s important for us to be open about our finances as our relationship moves forward. Can we talk about what’s important to us and where we are financially right now?”
      And then offer to disclose your financial situation first. Most important: Be open and honest.
  • For married couples just starting out:
    • “Wouldn’t it be great if we could be debt-free by the time we’re <insert age here>? What do you think are some ways we could make sure that happens?” This leaves the conversation completely open to brainstorming, rather than putting blame or directives on anyone.
  • For couples that have weathered some financial storms:
    • “<Insert year> was such a hard year financially! I learned <insert learning lesson here>.”

This is simply opening a door for your partner to walk through and continue the conversation. If he/she chooses not to, that’s fine. But try this tactic again at a later time, once your partner has had time to mull it over.

  • When you’re concerned that your financial values do not match your partner’s:
    • “I know we come from different backgrounds, but I think it’s important that we create our own financial future together. I don’t feel like we’re on the same page. Can we discuss some ways we can work together and support one another toward a financial goal?”

Again, even if you’re unsatisfied with your partner’s financial behaviors, there’s no blame. You’re simply opening up the conversation so you can work together.

Discussing finances is never easy. Yet keeping the lines of communication open creates the backdrop for a loving relationship without the stress of hidden purchases and unspoken resentments. This Valentine’s day, give your better half more than a box of chocolates and a sappy poem. Give him or her the gift of understanding, acceptance and an open conversation about something that, when all is said and done, isn’t all that easy to talk about.

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How To Shop For Fall On A Budget

That long-anticipated day has finally come and gone. Your kids looked sharp and neat sporting spiffy backpacks and dressed in their spanking new back-to-school clothing. You watched them board that bus and waved them off from your perch at the bus stop until your arm hurt.

Then you breathed a great sigh of relief, grateful that the busy back-to-school shopping season is behind you.

Unfortunately, though, the fun is just beginning!

While your child may be outfitted for the new school year, you might need some warmer autumn clothing for yourself. And of course, if the leaves are starting to change colors, it can only mean that winter isn’t far behind. That brings with it a whole slew of wardrobe necessities and accessories you’ll need to purchase, both for yourself and the rest of your family.

If the dollar signs dancing before your eyes are starting to look frighteningly large, you can relax! As always, UCCU is here to help you navigate this potentially expensive task and show you creative ways to save, even as you bundle up your family for the fall and winter seasons.

Read on for six timely money-saving tips this shopping season.

1.) Layer up

Don’t pack away your summer clothing just yet! The temperatures may be dropping, but you can still find many uses for those tank tops and summer dresses; save them for layering up in colder weather. You can stick a long-sleeved T-shirt under a dress and add leggings and boots to make it warmer. If you’re a genuine fashion guru and will wear any trend, you can even wear shorts in the winter and stick a pair of leggings or warm tights underneath.

2.) Take inventory

You check your pantry before heading to the supermarket; shouldn’t you also take stock of your closets before hitting the mall? This is especially important when shopping for a new season. It’s easy to forget pieces you’ve got hidden in the back of your closet or buried deep in a drawer from last winter. Take a careful inventory of what each family member has and what they still need and write it down. This way, you won’t come home to find that you already have what you’ve purchased.

3.) Shop the sales

Fall has a few observed holidays that bring awesome sales – so take advantage! There’s Columbus Day, Veterans Day and then the markdown day of the year, Black Friday. There’s also Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. It’s worth waiting for the next holiday to buy what you need. You’ll save a lot just by being patient!

4.) Shop online – without paying shipping

Online shopping can be significantly cheaper than retail stores – until you need to chalk up $6.99 for shipping, that is.

Beat the system by looking for free shipping on sites like Freeshipping.com, or by taking advantage of the free in-store pickup available at many retailers. Many stores also offer coupons to first-time online shoppers. If you’ve already shopped a store online, you can sign in using another email address and still snag the deal.

Even if you prefer live shopping and like to try on your clothing before you buy, it pays to check out a store’s online inventory before going to the brick and mortar shop. This way, you’ll know what they have and what you like instead of wasting time browsing racks and finding the perfect top with the perfect price several hours later.

5.) Time it right

There’s a season for every purchase. If you wait until a specific item goes on sale, you’ll save big. For example, jeans always get marked down in October and last winter’s boots will show up on the sales racks at the end of September. It’s worth it to wait until these times to buy these items.

Also, winter coats hit the sales racks as soon as Christmas is over. Depending on the climate in your area, you may be able to hold off on buying a coat until after the holidays to await a super deal. Alternatively, if your old coat is in fairly good condition but you’d like a more updated look, consider making do with last year’s coat for now, and buying a new one when they go on sale.

6.) Shop the overstock

Stores that specialize in deeply discounted merchandise, like DSW, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls, can be a terrific source for name brand clothing at generic prices. You may have to sift through rows of racks until you land a real bargain, but it’ll be well worth your time. These stores are especially beneficial for stocking up on basics.

On a similar note, be sure to check out secondhand stores and sites like Overstock.com for incredible deals on stuff you need.

Don’t break the budget this shopping season. With a bit of planning and strategic shopping, you can outfit your family for warmer weather.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to save money when shopping for clothing? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://welcometothefamilytable.com/8-ways-to-stock-up-on-winter-clothing/

http://tiphero.com/how-to-save-money-on-winter-clothing/

https://money.usnews.comm/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-frugal-ways-to-save-this-fall

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7 Common Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Having sufficient life insurance is important. And yet, so many of us buy into popular misconceptions, convincing ourselves we don’t need to bother purchasing a policy.

But don’t be fooled. Read on to see how seven of the most widespread life insurance myths are easily debunked.

Myth #1: I’m single and I have no dependents. There’s no reason for me to get life insurance.

Actually, there is good reason for you to have life insurance as a single person. First, every person should have enough funds to cover their funeral costs and end-of-life medical bills. You don’t want to leave your family or executor with a legacy of debt and unpaid bills. Second, purchasing a life insurance policy is the best way to be remembered for your generosity. You can choose your favorite cause to be the beneficiary of your death payout, helping improve the lives of others after you’re gone.

Myth #2: I’m a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t earn an income. My partner needs life insurance; I don’t.

Unless you sit at home twiddling your thumbs all day, the tasks that fill your time will need to be outsourced to hired help if you suddenly pass on. Your better half may need to pay for cleaning help, a cook or a nanny – or maybe all three! All that costs money, and that money can come from the insurance payout from a homemaker’s policy.

Life insurance policies protect families.

Myth #3: Why would I waste my money on an insurance policy when I can invest that same money and earn higher returns?

Are you sitting on millions? Unless you can honestly answer that with a “yes,” you’re better off putting your money somewhere safe with a guaranteed payout – like a life insurance policy. Investments are never 100% safe, and you don’t want to leave your dependents with an iffy source of funds. The only exception to this rule is for the truly wealthy who have more than $1 million in liquid assets and have their funeral costs and medical bills covered. For the rest of us mere mortals, though, life insurance is the way to go.

Myth #4: Life insurance is too expensive. I can’t afford it!

The idea that that life insurance is too expensive is just hogwash. A recent Life Happens study revealed that 80% of uninsured people who claimed life insurance was too expensive had overestimated its cost. A 20-year level term policy for a healthy 30-year-old usually falls in the ballpark of $150 a year. That’s peanuts compared to the benefits of having life insurance and the security of knowing your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone.

Myth #5: I’m too young to worry about life insurance.

Actually, there’s no better time to purchase a life insurance policy than when you’re young and hearty. The premiums are far less expensive for those under age 35, and most people in that stage of life do not have sizable assets to pass on to their dependents. The longer you wait to buy a policy, the bigger chance you have of developing a medical condition that will significantly raise your monthly premiums. Most importantly, dependents of the 25-35 age group will definitely be too young to be financially independent and will need the death payouts for basic survival.

Myth #6: My children are independent adults. Why would I need life insurance?

There’s an old bit of advice claiming that parents of adult children should keep their mouths shut and their purse strings open. It always feels good to provide for your children, regardless of their stage of life. Leaving your dependents with an inheritance that helps them purchase a home, start a business or even put some money away for a rainy day will keep you in their thoughts long after you’re gone.

Also, you don’t want to burden your children with funeral expenses and medical bills when they’re grieving. Just the cost of a funeral and burial can top $8,000! It’s always best to have these expenses covered before it’s too late.

Myth #7: My job offers a life insurance policy for all employees. If I leave my job, I can always take the policy with me.

Unfortunately, this is false. Most employer-offered life insurance policies are not portable. If you leave your job, for whatever reason, you’ll also be leaving your life insurance plan. No one can predict the future, and there’s no way to know you’ll remain at your current workplace forever. That’s why it’s best to purchase a separate life insurance policy, even when your employer provides you with one. Plus, buying your own policy will allow you to choose one that best suits your needs.

It’s never fun to think about what will happen after we’re gone. Taking the time to plan for end-of-life expenses, though, and leaving loved ones with enough to live on when we’ve passed, is the responsible thing to do. Don’t let a life insurance myth keep you from buying a policy!

Your Turn: Which of the above myths did you always believe to be true? Can you identify any others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

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Book Review: The Recovering Spender by Lauren Greutman

For far too many people, being rudely awakened from the American Dream is synonymous with being mired in debt.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

In The Recovering Spender, Lauren Greutman draws on her own life experience to teach invaluable lessons about living within your means.

To outsiders, Lauren and her husband, Mark, appeared as though they were living a charmed life. As she says, “On the surface, we had it all. Custom home, luxury cars, beautiful babies, and all the bells and whistles…” But disaster lurked beneath the surface.

Though the Greutmans seemed like they had more than enough for all their necessities and many luxuries, they were living way beyond their means simply to keep up with the neighbors. Too soon, they found themselves with a mortgage that had not been paid in months, their car seized and sky-high debt that reached $40,000.

Their dream had become an awful nightmare.

Through a long journey of recreating their relationship with money and spending, the Greutmans arrived at where they are today: back in the black and fully committed to spending less while living within their budget.

In The Recovering Spender, Greutman details the steps she and her family took to pull it off. She shares her hard-earned tips and practical advice to help others who find themselves ending each month with a deficit that keeps growing.

Lauren also shares many of her personal struggles in ways relatable to readers to help them learn from her mistakes. It’s easier for an over-stressed mom who never feels like she can stretch the dollar far enough to take tips from another mom who’s been there, than it is to heed advice from a financial expert who’s never experienced anxiety about being able to pay for groceries.

The book also takes readers through the process of going from being in the red to living completely debt-free, offering a step-by-step guide with actions readers can take immediately as they work their way through the book.

Some of the actionable chapters in the book include:

1. Take an Inventory of Your Spending.

2. Declutter Your Finances.

3. Do an Expense Audit.

4. Curb Your Spending and Define Your Values.

Most importantly, The Recovered Spender is a guide for getting off the path of debt, and living happily within your means.

Your Turn: Do you overspend in order to keep up with the Joneses? Have you successfully changed your spending habits? Share your success with us!

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